Lobbying for Mental Health

Posted on February 20, 2013

Rallying for mental health at the New York State capital Rallying for mental health at the New York State capitalSince 2009, I’ve been going to Legislative Day, sponsored by the New York Association of Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services (NYAPRS), an advocacy organization that Fountain House has supported for over twenty years.

I get all revved up about this day, because it gives my peers and me a chance to go to Albany to see all the political leaders and let them know about the issues that the mental health community at large faces and how important accredited clubhouses are throughout the metropolitan area and across the country. It seems that when the general public hears about clubhouses, they think only of social clubs. Fountain House and all the other clubhouse programs that follow Fountain House’s model are so important for the mental health community. They give people with mental illness hope, a chance to re-enter society and live productive lives.
This year I was fortunate enough to be a team leader, not only for my group from Fountain House, but also for Metro Club PROS (MCP), where I work as a Recovery Specialist. I’m very proud to say that the Fountain House group I led up to Albany consisted of members and staff, working side by side as usual – a crucial part of the clubhouse model formula. Each person shared their personal stories of how clubhouses have imporoved their lives with the legislators and their staffers.
We also discussed relevant issues of the day, specifically the violence erupting across our nation that has been linked to mental illness. We expressed our concern about how the media portrays it and the stigma it’s creating against our community, even though, in reality, occurrences of violence are miniscule relative to the overall mental health community. Members of our group also discussed other issues, such as reinvesting savings from state hospital downsizing to boost community-based housing and also employment and peer services.
Let me backtrack a little so you can get an idea of how the day was. I arose at 4:30 in the morning, was out of the house by 5 AM, and by 5:30 I was at the bus departure area at Union Square. The first person I saw was Carla Rabinowitz, the NYAPRS point person who coordinates the Legislative Day trip. We went over the lists of who was coming from Fountain House and MCP, and we made sure they were all on the bus. We departed at approximately 6:30 AM and arrived in Albany between 9:30 and 10 AM.
When we arrived, Harvey Rosenthal, President and Director of NYAPRS, greeted us heartily and directed us to an auditorium in the New York Capital District’s iconic Egg Builiding, where we would be until lunch time. On the program schedule, Harvey gave us an overview of the New York State budget. NYAPRS Co-Presidents Maura Kelly and Steve Coe and Public Policy Co-Chairs Carla Rabinowitz and Raymond Schwartz then collectively made presentations on this year’s priorities:
  • Protecting the community mental health safety net
  • Reinvesting savings from state hospital downsizing
  • Enhancing Medicaid community recovery supports
  • Protecting Medicaid beneficiary rights and medication access.
  • Serving New Yorkers with psychiatric disabilities in the most integrated settings
  • Creating a detailed Olmstead Plan
  • Enhancing strategies to help distressed individuals
  • Opposing psychiatric profiling
Four people who have worked above and beyond in the field of mental health recovery were recognized for their efforts: Wendy Brennan, Senator David Carlucci, Assemblywoman Aileen Günther, and Kristin Woodlock.
Around noon we had lunch and reviewed our strategy before we went to rally at the steps of the State Capitol building. Following the rally, we kept appointments with our respective assembly people; my group saw Mark Gjonaj, Assemblyman 80th District and Linda B. Rosenthal, member of Assembly 67th District. By four in the afternoon we were back on the buses and on our way home after a very productive and satisfying day!

Alan Miller
Clerical Unit and Advocacy Committee, Fountain House


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